This video shows the moment two of the world’s largest lizards hatched at Chester Zoo.
Keepers captured it on camera as the highly endangered baby Komodo dragons hatched.
The hatchlings arrived to mum Mezcal and dad Satali weighing around 74g and measuring just 40cm in length, after being carefully incubated for six months.
The tiny youngsters will grow to be more than three metres long and weigh up to 90kg as adults.
It’s the first time the zoo has successfully bred hatchlings from a pair of mating dragons.
In 2007, experts at the zoo became the first in the world to discover that female Komodo dragons can fertilise their own eggs without mating – a process known as Parthenogenesis. This was a global scientific breakthrough at the time.
Zookeepers say the two hatchlings will join a ‘vitally important’ international conservation breeding programme that is working to safeguard dwindling dragon numbers and build a healthy population in zoos to protect the future of the species.
The reptiles have survived for tens of thousands of years, but despite their reselience, populations in the wild have diminished over the last 50 years due to increased human activity, habitat loss and climate change.
Matt Cook, Lead Keeper of reptiles at Chester Zoo, said: “We have been eagerly awaiting this moment after we successfully introduced female dragon Mezcal with male Satali and they seemed to hit it off straight away.
"A month later we found a clutch of eggs that had been laid and we carefully placed them in a special incubator where they have been monitored closely for several months.
"Given the current plight of dragons, we couldn’t take any chances. The two youngsters are now thriving and will join a vitally important conservation breeding programme, spanning the globe, as zoos like ours work to preserve this true icon of the natural world and ensure their survival for generations to come."
The information and learning from the process will now be shared with conservation organisation The Komodo Survival Program, with whom Chester Zoo has been working for 14 years.
The Komodo dragon is the largest of the world’s 7,555 lizard species, with ancestors that date back more than 100 million years.
The giant reptiles are found on just a handful of small isolated islands in Indonesia, including Komodo and Flores, where experts say just 3,000 now remain.
Habitat loss, agricultural expansion and rising global temperatures have caused major decline in Komodo dragon populations, with their habitat expected to reduce by a further 30 percent in the next 45 years.